By Jean DePlacido
---- — GLOUCESTER – For over 43 minutes it looked like Beverly was never going to get a puck by Masconomet senior netminder Alex Jones, who stonewalled the Panthers, despite facing 38 shots.
As the old saying goes “better late than never,” Beverly never stopping fighting when down 1-0 with time running out in a battle between the two top teams in the NEC/CAL.
Junior Nicole Woods, who rarely came off the ice all game, scored the tying goal with 1:53 remaining to give her team the league championship— in a 1-1 decision.
Woods had been out for a long shift when she fought for a loose puck along the boards in the Masco end and glided down the middle with two players draped all over her. She used her speed to find enough room to get a shot off and fired just under crossbar, where Jones had no chance to stop. Senior captain Livvy Konaxis and freshman Olivia Pawlyck assisted on the goal.
“I was really tired, but we were all getting tired at that point,” said Woods, who leads her team in scoring and recorded her 20th goal of the season. “Alex is an amazing goalie, and it’s always hard to get anything by her. That’s probably the most exciting goal I’ve ever scored.
“If it was any other team they would’ve given up, but we owed it to our coaches to give it everything we had. We had never won the conference since I’ve been on the team, and that was one of our big goals right from the start of the season.”
A happy group of Panthers surrounded goalie Ami Thompson after the game ended, and “We Are the Champions” by Queen could be heard in the hallways outside their locker room at the Talbot Rink with the girls singing along.
Woods said she took the advice of assistant coach Bill Seabury to score the big goal.
“Pops always tells me when you are coming across the net to shot from the back side,” said Woods. “That’s what I was thinking about when I took my shot. I picked a spot at the top of the net and shot. I’m just so glad it went in.”
Beverly (14-0-2) outshot Masco (10-3-2) by wide margin (38-13), but trailed by a goal after a two-on-one break. Katie Terban scored after taking a pass from captain Kendra Dow at the 10:04 mark of the opening period, which stood up until the waning minutes of the game.
The Panthers came out fired up to start the middle period and kept almost constant pressure on Jones, but despite taking 14 shots couldn’t get anything past her.
“We needed a win or a tie to take the championship,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “It certainly wasn’t easy, and we kept peppering their goalie all game. She is one of the best in our league and a big part of why Masconomet is so successful this year.
“We played really well, and although we would have loved to get a win, we’ll take the tie. We needed that point, and we just kept coming. I’m so proud of the way the kids played, and Nicole’s goal was definitely a pretty one.”
Jones had robbed Woods early in the final period after Konaxis gave her a perfect pass. Woods went high, but Jones was able to make a glove save. Masco had one last chance to regain the lead with just over a minute remaining on a three-on-two break, but Thompson came up with a big save on Dow to preserve the tie.
“My goalie was a rock back there,” said Masco coach Nicole Twomey. “She kept the game close even though they outshot us by a wide margin. They outshot, but didn’t outplay us. We were aggressive right from the start and wanted to win this game just as much as Beverly did.”